I usually count it as a good month when I've read at least 4 books, and this last month I finished 5! I've always been an extremely picky reader, but I particularly disliked this month's reads. I think I picked the majority of them up because I was hoping for light reading to make up for a stressful month, but they just frustrated me, to be honest. Anyway, here goes: I have some unpopular opinions, so be prepared.
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What Happened by Hillary Clinton: 5 stars
As you may have guessed, I am a Democrat and a huge fan of Hillary Clinton, which definitely influenced my opinion of this book. I found it masterfully written, carefully researched and thought out, and (this may surprise some people) very tactfully done. Clinton does not "blame" anyone for her loss--she lays out the facts and draws her own, educated, conclusions. She is honest about the areas where she was at fault, as well as holding those accountable who unfairly targeted her, directly influencing the outcome of the race.
If you're one of those people who has chanted "Crooked Hillary" or "Lock her up" at rallies, maybe skip this one. If you're on the fence about her and you're genuinely interested in learning more about her agenda, political history, and her hope for the future of the United States, I urge you to give this one a chance. And if you're a fan of her like I am, what are you waiting for??
A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab: 3 stars
I really enjoyed the first installment in the Shades of Magic trilogy, but the 2nd book had me rolling my eyes at the sheer laziness of the story. There is minimal world building, and, whenever Schwab seems to get stuck with the story, she switches to a new character's point of view. It's a jarring effect to jump around between so many different characters, and it makes it extremely difficult to get into the story.
More than anything, I felt like Schwab was just trying too hard to make one of the main characters (Lila) a complete badass. I've finished the series and I still can't make out what she was trying to do with her--it was like she was a weird mash-up of Katniss and Captain Jack Sparrow (and not in a good way). Also, I have to say it--I don't know why Schwab felt the need to say that Lila "sharpened her smile" so many times. It's like she came up with that phrase in the first book and was so proud of herself she needed to use it over and over again.
A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab: 2 stars
I had to skim the last 50 pages of this one just to finish the thing. Everything I disliked about the story and the characters quickly came to the surface. There are plot holes, continuity issues, tons of typos (the editor in me was screaming), and the writing is poetic at times, but complete nonsense if you actually think about it. Schwab barely describes the palace, and yet the characters spend almost the entire novel holed up in there. I was simultaneously bored and irritated throughout the story, and the margins are filled with notes like "Doesn't make sense" and "She's used this exact phrase like 50 times already" and "Why is this character so stupid?" It had an incredibly amateurish feel, so I was shocked to find out that this was not, in fact, the author's first series.
Ultimately, one character's development throughout the trilogy (Holland) saved this book from a one-star rating for me. I'm a sucker for a reformed antagonist.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan: 2 stars
It is not fashionable to like this book, partly because Tan has been accused of perpetuating Asian-American stereotypes in it. I don't have much of an opinion on that, but I really didn't enjoy this book. I found it equal parts dull and confusing, and I didn't become invested in any of the characters well enough to care about their stories. There were a few lines that made me laugh, and a couple chapters I enjoyed, which is what earned this title 2 stars and convinced me to actually finish the damn thing. Additionally, I would caution AGAINST listening the audiobook unless you're in the mood for a laugh--the narrators are alarmingly horrible at imitating male voices.
Dog Medicine by Julie Barton: 1 star
I picked this one up expecting to read about the special relationship between a woman and her dog. I'm an animal lover, and it's impossible to adequately express the positive influence my rescue dog has had on my mental and emotional health. However, I felt completely tricked by this book. The majority of the story focuses on Barton's struggle with depression--she doesn't even meet her puppy until halfway through. Once she does purchase him, the book reads more like a manual on how not to be a responsible dog owner. She writes about how her dog "saved her life" and helped her battle depression, but she doesn't do the same for him as she ignores repeated signs of an extremely painful and severe medical condition from him, refusing to take him to the vet for months. I was shaking with rage as I finished this book. If someone does not have the mental or emotional capacity to responsibly look after a pet, they have no business adopting one in the first place.